Schools need more than fakes

January 30, 2023 3:00 am

Students have their arms raised during an American history class. (Getty Images)

Competition soared this month in the sky-is-falling sweepstakes. Among the honorable mentions is U.S. Rep. Mike Flood, R-Neb., who, rather than being serious about serious problems, I found on Twitter making breakfast on a gas stove because, well, gas stoves, you know.

Apparently that whole debt ceiling thing is a trifle. Maybe, too, Congress should table further discussions about Ukraine. Or of what consequence is it really that the U.S. House is harboring an imposter, a real fake in a deep fake world?

Despite Floods efforts to start a nonstarter, the Nebraska Legislature and State Board of Education get the dubious win this month for their work on behalf of the state’s schoolchildren.

Exhibit A is State Sen. Dave Murmans Legislative Bill 374, the Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act,” moonbeams on which mom and dad and their evidence-free fraternity can prop the heavens from falling down around us.

A cursory read of the proposal reveals that parents would be given the right” to know and review whats in their childs curriculum, permission they apparently already have. No one, including Murman, has cited an instance of parents being barred from that information. But do forge ahead because those other concerns in our public schools — teacher shortages, catching up with losses incurred during COVID, addressing students’mental health —can surely repair themselves.

A stickier section of Murmans bill is its insistence that we teach an inaccurate version of American history, lest students feel guilt or responsibility for slavery and its aftermath in this country. Murman doesnt call that a ban on teaching critical race theory (CRT), but we know what the senator means. Before the Legislature votes, I would hope, either in committee or on the floor, a colleague would ask Murman or others so inclined to vote for LB 374 to define CRT. To cite specific examples of where in Nebraska it is being taught. Further, to cite examples of students anywhere overcome with accountability because as part of this country’s narrative Americans bought, sold, tortured, and murdered human beings and the long, embedded consequences of that.

On a related educational note Murman has also introduced LB 371, which would bar anyone under 19 from attending a drag show, defined as a performance in which the performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performers gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers … and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”

So those high school pep rallies where beefy football players dress in cheerleader skirts and lead the student body in the school song would cost that district $10,000, the fine for hosting such events. Also off limits in high schools would be the drama departments productions of As You Like It,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “The Merchant of Venice” and Cymbeline,” in the off chance that the worlds greatest English literary figure was a groomer.

Forget, too, showing Tootsie,” “Victor Victoria,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” or Some Like it Hot” at the local revival house lest the under 19 crowd —OK by Motion Picture Association of America standards — get the wrong idea from silver screen make believe and the local Bijou has to cough up 10 Gs per violation.

Theres more. State Sen. Joni Albrecht wants to abolish the State Board of Education via an amendment to the State Constitution. If voters approved her proposal, state educational issues such as state standards would be the purview of the governor and a governor-appointed educational commissioner. Which, if the timing is correct, could mean an entirely new set of school policies every time we decide to change occupants in the governors mansion.

Speaking of the State Board of Education, it needs to hire a new education commissioner. One board member, Sherry Jones, said shes looking for a commissioner who has the fear of the Lord.” She didnt elaborate on which or whose Lord she meant, but the last time I checked in with our democratic republic principles, I remember seeing that when you spend public funds and set public policy, the Lord — yours or mine, feared or not — isnt part of the equation.

As predicted by many, schoolhouses are ground zero in the culture wars now endemic to the country. All of which means none of the above should surprise anyone who has been paying attention. Still, as Ive written in this space before, schools already have enough real issues without giving cover to fakes.

Leave that to the House of Representatives.

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George Ayoub
George Ayoub

George Ayoub filed nearly 5,000 columns, editorials and features in 21 years as a journalist for the Grand Island Independent. His columns also appeared in the Omaha World-Herald and Kearney Hub. His work has been recognized by the Nebraska Press Association and the Associated Press. He was awarded a national prize by Gatehouse Media for a 34-part series focusing on the impact of cancer on families of victims and survivors. He is a member of the adjunct faculty and Academic Support Staff at Hastings College. Ayoub has published two short novels, “Warm, for Christmas” and “Dust in Grissom.” In 2019 he published “Confluence,” the biography of former Omaha World-Herald publisher and CEO John Gottschalk.